Growlithe is among the first 150 Pokemon ever created, and its evolution into the powerful Arcanine continues to be among the most popular of all pocket monsters. In Pokemon Legends Arceus, Growlithe was one of the first to be officially revealed with a regional Hisui variant, this one being both Rock and Fire type. While its evolution into Hisuian Arcanine wasn’t officially revealed until much later, it was easy to assume it shared the same typing.
In the days leading up to the game’s release, it was revealed that Arcanine is actually one of the Noble Pokemon, and indeed, it is Fire and Rock type. The question is, can Hisuian Arcanine overcome what is most certainly an inferior defensive typing to mono-Fire in order to succeed as both a strong team-member and competitive Pokemon?
The lore behind Hisuian Growlithe is clever enough, with thicker fur to protect it against Hisui’s extreme temperature swings, and a horn that its developed to defend itself. The interesting thing about the lore is that this horn, despite being made of rock, is relatively fragile and should only be used in extreme cases. When it evolves into Hisuian Arcanine, it has a much stronger, deadlier horn and an impressive physique to boot. From an offensive standpoint, gaining the Rock-type is actually a huge boon thanks to the powerful Rock-type offensive moves available. Neither Growlithe nor Arcanine ever learned any Rock-type moves, giving them some potentially very interesting move pool adjustments.
Some trainers speculated that Hisuian Arcanine could end up having access to the powerful Head Smash. Unfortunately, this would not be the case, at least not in Legends Arceus. As we will see later, the Hisui form of Arcanine does indeed learn some good Rock-type moves, but a heavy hitter such as Head Smash may have to wait its eventual appearance in Generation 9’s Scarlet and Violet games.
What will hamper Hisuian Arcanine competitively is the defensive shortcomings it gains along with the its new dual typing. Like fellow Rock/Fire types Magcargo and Coalossal, Hisuian Arcanine still retains a 2x weakness to Rock. Also, the 2x weakness to Water becomes 4x and its 2x weakness to Ground also becoming 4x. Then, it also gets an additional 2x Fighting-type weakness and no longer resists Steel-type or Grass-type attacks by 50 percent.
What does Arcanine in its Hisuian form even gain defensively? Fire-type moves are now only 25 percent effective rather than 50 percent. Also, Normal, Poison, and Flying type moves are only 50 percent effective. Despite these few defensive strengths, Rock/Fire Pokemon are actually pretty terrible at defending against many common attacking moves.
What made Magcargo playable in competitive play from the Gold and Silver through Diamond and Pearl was that it could be a physical wall with 120 base Defense. It also hit decently hard with Flamethrower or Lava Plume, could use Will-o-Wisp to burn foes, and even packed Recover to stick around. It became outclassed by Black and White, especially as it only had 50 base HP. Still, it was somewhat useful if you deployed it correctly.
Sword and Shield introduced a better version of Magcargo with Coalossal, with much higher HP (110) and Special Defense (90). Its great bulk and decent physical Attack stat (80) allowed it to hit hard with Heavy Slam while still putting out solid Fire Blasts in between using Rapid Spin to take care of entry hazards before setting its own Stealth Rocks. Even then, Coalossal didn’t hang around competitively once the DLC hit and the game gained many Pokemon that blasted it with its weaknesses immediately.
Of course, both normal Arcanine and Hisuian Arcanine are much faster than Magcargo or Coalossal, with 95 base Speed (vs 30 for the aforementioned pair). The problem is that Arcanine’s defense, while fine at 80 base points each, aren’t going to allow it to take many super-effective hits, especially the quad-effective ones. Yes, normal Arcanine has above-average HP with 90, but that didn’t save Coalossal.
Hisuian Arcanine actually gets some changes to its base stats in Hisui, and unfortunately, one of them is a negative hit to Speed. According to Ranked Boost, Hisuian Arcanine loses 5 Speed and 5 Special Attack VS normal Arcanine, but fortunately gains 5 base HP and 5 base Attack. While the loss in Speed is minimal, Arcanine’s Hisui form is still going to need to hit hard and fast before it can be revenge killed by one of its many weaknesses. Yes, Rock hits opposing Fire-types hard, as well as Bug, Flying, and Ice types. Unfortunately, Fire already takes care of Bug and Ice types just fine, so you’re really just gaining help against Flying-types, which while certainly useful, isn’t going to make up for its defensive drawbacks.
Yes, Hisuian Arcanine is going to drive home some powerful hits with its strong offensive stats (115 Attack and 95 Special Attack), but it’s going to get hit back hard more often than not. If you run into a situation where Hisuian Arcanine can come in and sweep, he’s an excellent mixed attacker. To make up for the downtick in speed, the best nature for Hisuian Arcanine may be Hasty, which drains Defense but boosts Speed. Alternatively, if you find you need just a bit more power, a Lonely nature will drop Defense but boost Attack instead.
The Same-Type attack bonus Rock moves will be welcome for sure, which include Rock Slide and Stone Edge; keep in mind, though, Stone Edge is a Special Attacking move, not optimal when you’re looking to maximize your physical Attack stat with a particular nature. Somewhat hilariously, Hisuian Arcanine is a good counter for itself. There are just better fire types, of which there appear to be many even in Hisui, so I’m not sure we really even see Hisuian Arcanine make many teams even in Pokemon Legends Arceus.
Still, the best moveset for Hisuian Arcanine looks like Double-Edge, Flare Blitz, Crunch, and Rock Slide is solid enough. There’s an alternate physical Fire move in Raging Fury, which trades the recoil damage for being fixated on the move. This form of Arcanine still retains type coverage moves with the Dragon-type Outrage, Electric-type Wild Charge, and the Fairy-type Play Rough, so it still has some versatility, although Crunch and its ability to drop Defense probably makes it my preferred move for that flex slot.
What’s made normal Arcanine good competitively? Hisuian Arcanine is all-in on offense, whereas players in Sword and Shield often built normal Arcanine to be more of a support Pokemon in the vein of Incineroar. According to Pikalytics, Arcanine has appeared quite rarely in VGC, but when it has, its moveset typically includes Will-o-Wisp, Protect, Flare Blitz, and Snarl. Hisuian Arcanine can only learn Flare Blitz and Snarl from among these in the Legends Arceus game.
Will-o-Wisp is particular good competitively thanks to burning opposing Pokemon, cutting their physical Attack stat in half. Protect is a move that doesn’t exist in Legends Arceus, but allows the Pokemon using it to absorb an incoming attack and negate its damage or effects. Snarl is a good Dark-type Special attacking move that lowers the opposing Pokemon’s Special Attack, and is particularly useful in the double battles required in competitive Pokemon VGC.
Also, Arcanine is often a useful team member for double battles thanks to its Intimidate ability, which lowers the physical Attack of opposing Pokemon when it comes into play. While the abilities of Pokemon are hidden and inactive within the gameplay of Legends Arceus, the Pokemon data still contains them. Fortunately, Hisuian Arcanine still has Intimidate as one of its potential abilities, which is a definite plus.
There’s more good news for Hisuian Arcanine’s future in its potential move pool additions. These include a strong possibility that with Scarlet and Violet, Hisuian Arcanine will gain the use of Will-o-Wisp and Protect. It’s likely that you would swap out Snarl for a strong Rock-type attack. Perhaps Rock Slide would be the best option, thanks to being able to hit both opponents in double battles, despite its 25 percent chance it misses. Rock Slide can also cause one or both opponent’s Pokemon to flinch, making them skip their turn. However, having access to a Rock Slide with same-type Attack bonus doesn’t seem worth the defensive downsides Hisuian Arcanine builds into your team.
So, the designs of Hisuian Growlithe and Arcanine are creative and fit with the lore of the Hisui region. But, Hisuian Arcanine isn’t a Pokemon competitive players can get excited about, and may not be a good Pokemon overall mainly due to its unfortunate defensive typing. When it comes to the mainline games in Generation 9, Hisuian Arcanine may have tools to make it a Choice Scarf user that hits its strengths extremely hard, mitigating the chance it will be revenge killed.
Still, when it comes to Hisuian Arcanine VS normal Arcanine from Generation One, I’d rather just play with old school Arcanine. It’s unfortunate that the fan predictions for Hisuian Arcanine replacing its Rock type with Steel type when it evolved weren’t true. Otherwise, we would’ve had a faster version of Heatran, and that would’ve been incredible. Imagine a Fire/Steel type Hisuian Arcanine with a same-type attack bonus to Iron Head! Unfortunately, Game Freak wasn’t willing to give the old school mon that sort of massive boost.
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